"Normally when kids have personal issues, they respond negatively," said Cheryl Adkins, principal at Northwestern High School, where Shields is a senior. "Claressa decided this was going to be her road and she stuck to it."
Shields was 11 when her father signed the permission slip for the boxing program at Flint's renowned Berston Field House. Crutchfield told her to join the other kids in front of the mirrored wall in the cramped basement gym to practice technique, then handed her off to one of the other coaches.
He didn't bother learning her name. He doubted she'd last long enough.
Two weeks in, however, Crutchfield noticed that Shields was catching on faster than the boys. And while she didn't say much, there was a fierce intensity to her.
"I saw how good she was doing and how fast she was advancing and then that's when I grabbed her," Crutchfield said. "I said, 'What's your name again?' She said, 'Claressa.' I said, 'Nah, from now on your name is Ress.'"
Crutchfield took Shields under his wing, teaching her the same punches, footwork and strategies that had won him four Golden Gloves titles in Michigan in the 1980s. She was a natural, and when women's boxing was added to the Olympic program in 2009, Crutchfield told Shields she could win the gold medal.
She was 14, not even old enough to qualify for the U.S. championships.
"I ain't never seen a woman who boxes like me. Even the girls who won gold medals," Shields said, proudly. "I think if I was another girl and I had to fight myself, I'd be biting my fingernails."
There is a brutal elegance to Shields' fighting style. Her fists fly with a smoothness, and she delivers her punches with a rhythmic POP! POP! POP! But the blows are punishing and come with unrelenting force, a power fueled partly by rage.
Shields talks matter-of-factly about her family and upbringing and the challenges they presented. She has made peace with all parts of her story, recognizing that while others may have provided the material, it is up to her to decide how it is written.
"You really can't do nothing about stuff you can't control," she said. "You can't control other people."
But that wasn't so easy to understand when she was younger, and the upheaval could be overwhelming. She would lash out and throw tantrums, and Crutchfield would kick her out of the gym as punishment.
"Boxing has helped me control my anger outside the gym," Shields said. "So now, whenever I experience something outside, I don't even let it affect me no more. It's stuff that used to make me just snap."
Like her family, and having to look after herself much earlier than any child should.
"Sometimes I think about other people's families. ... They're all, like, super close," she said. "My family used to be like that, but they kind of broke up and now they're not. Sometimes I think about that, but I really can't do nothing about it. As long as I've got somebody, I'm all right."
That somebody is Crutchfield and his wife. Or "Mama Mickey," as Shields calls her.
Crutchfield knew Shields didn't have a perfect home life. Few of the kids at Berston did. But when he realized she was hungry and walking by herself to the gym, he knew he had to step in.
"I just kind of seen how she was living, and I said, 'Somebody's got to do it. Somebody has to do it,'" Crutchfield said.
He started picking her up and dropping her off. Rouse began fixing an extra plate for dinner, and Crutchfield would either take it with him to the gym or bring Shields back to their home. Soon, Rouse was asking Shields what she wanted from the grocery store and sending her home with food. When Crutchfield and Shields went to tournaments, he'd spend his own money to make sure she ate — even if it meant he skipped a meal or two.
"I don't really think we've done anything that anybody else in any sane mind wouldn't do," Rouse said. "If child comes to you and says she's hungry, what are you going to do?"
But Crutchfield and Rouse have gone beyond that.
It wasn't long before Shields was spending weekends and school breaks at their house, and joining them for Christmas. She became such a regular fixture that Crutchfield and Rouse's 6-year-old son, Jayden, refers to Shields as his sister. (Treats her like one, too, barging into her room and teasing her as only a little brother can.) Finally, after her schoolwork and training began showing the strains of bouncing between spare rooms and extra beds at the homes of relatives and family friends, Crutchfield and Rouse took Shields in permanently last January.
"When I look at her, I look at her as one of my kids," Rouse said. "I love her. I want the best for her, and whenever she needs something, I'm going to be there for her."
Shields still sees her parents — to celebrate Adams' recent birthday, Shields took her to dinner and spent the day with her — and remains close with her younger sister and brother, now 16 and 14. The two live with Shields' mom, but the siblings see each other at school.
But home now is with Crutchfield and Rouse. Shields has her own room there, and is expected to do chores. Shields hasn't had time to get her driver's license, so Crutchfield and Rouse get her to school, the gym and anywhere else she needs to go, using the black van with "Claressa Shields 2012 female Olympic gold medalist" emblazoned in — what else? — gold on the sides that a local dealer provided in an endorsement deal. (There's a black Camaro with gold detailing waiting when Shields does get that license.)